Tag Archives: Kiss of Death Records

Punk Rock Today is Better Than It’s Ever Been

"Punk Rock Today is Better Than It's Ever Been." 5/28/14. Pen. 4½x5¼".
“Punk Rock Today is Better Than It’s Ever Been.” 5/28/14. Pen. 4½x5¼”.

Back in February, I was lucky enough to get to work on a painting and set up a print table at a couple shows some of my favorite bands were playing. On the second night, I asked my buddy Mike (who runs Dead Broke Rekerds) if I could scoop up some records in exchange for some artwork. He picked out a print and asked if I would draw something for a Dead Broke sticker. It took me a while ’cause I was stressing out, worrying about whether or not Mike would like whatever I came up with. As soon as I decided to drop the anxiety and just do what came naturally though, it was done in no time and I had this design. I’m really happy with it – in large part just because it’s so radically unlike the kind of art that a band or label would normally use for a sticker design.

I don’t think I met him just then but the first time Mike and I crossed paths was in late 2006. His band, Down in the Dumps, was in Florida to play The Fest and I caught their set in Tampa at Transitions Art Gallery (now Epic Problem). In my mind, this was right around the time when DIY pop punk was really blowing the fuck up (in an incredibly relative sense) and getting awesome/exciting again. Off With Their Heads released Hospitals, started their never-ending tour, and were in the midst of the flurry of 7-inches that they’d release leading up to their first full-length for No Idea. 1-2-3-4 Go!, Kiss of Death, and A.D.D. were all fucking killing it with bands like Ringers, Snuggle, Drunken Boat, Monikers, Witches With Dicks, Tiltwheel, Chinese Telephones, and Pretty Boy Thorson & The Falling Angels. Labels like No Breaks, It’s Alive, Dirt Cult, and Salinas were similarly picking up the pace, building incredible catalogs, and (soon enough) inspiring me to do the same. Banner Pilot self-released their first record. The Brokedowns put out “New Brains For Everyone.” Blotto was on the other side of the Pacific, churning out 7-inches at the same rate as Off With Their Heads, (mostly for Snuffy Smile, who were also tearing it up on the label side of things).  And shortly thereafter (or right around then), we got the first records out of Dear Landlord, The Measure, The Gateway District, Dead Mechanical, The Humanoids, and The Steinways.

But I’m getting carried away… the FIRST band to play at Transitions that aforementioned night in October 2006 was Down in the Dumps. They were the only band on the line-up I didn’t know anything about. And they were fucking awesome. It was everything punk rock’s supposed to be: grimy, coarse, fucked up but catchy and upbeat (sonically, if not in content)Mike played bass and sang. And as I’d later find out, he was also the guy responsible for Dead Broke Rekerds, whose catalog now boasts a whole slew of my favorite records.

After I moved to DC for law school and started my record label, Traffic Street, the first bands to come through Baltimore and stay at my place were Iron Chic and Jonesin’.  Mike played bass and sang in Jonesin’ and – though he wasn’t at the time – is now the bassist in Iron Chic as well. Both bands mean a lot to me. One of Traffic Street’s final releases was Jonesin’s EP, “The Dream is Dead.” And – going back to the beginning – #001 in the Traffic Street catalog was a 7-inch compilation called “Dangerous Intersections,” which was not only my first vinyl release but also Iron Chic’s first appearance on vinyl (and only their second release overall, following their five-song demo).

Before Traffic Street collapsed under the weight of my mental health issues and heroin addiction, Mike and I were in regular contact, states away, trading our releases for our distros, talking music, making fun of each other, and – every so often – crossing paths again when I’d book a show for Iron Chic or he’d book one for Rational Anthem (who, coincidentally, shared the A-side of “Dangerous Intersections” with Iron Chic). When it all went wrong for me, he continued to stay in touch, checking up on me periodically, wishing me well, and even sending me a slew of records in the mail while I was in rehab. He’s continued being a source of support since I’ve been back in the real world too. He’s a great friend and a veritable fucking pillar of DIY punk rock. I’m honored to have my art featured on one of his label’s stickers.

AND REGARDING “punk rock today” and the claim made by the title of this piece… Allow me to present some audible evidence! Here are songs from the records Mike traded me that night back in February, as well as some recent stuff by other bands I’ve mentioned (and some by bands that spawned from their ashes).

“Babyboo” by Unfun

“Snow Angels” by Murmurs

“Wolf Dix Rd.” by Iron Chic

“I Wish I Could Be Happy” by Rational Anthem

“Not Cool” by The Slow Death

“Old Man Yells at Cloud” by Skinny Genes

“This Future Sucks” by The Brokedowns

“Hey Caroline” by Dear Landlord

“Look” by Science Police

“How the Day Runs Down” by Dead Mechanical

“Start Walking” by Off With Their Heads

“Hold Fast” by Banner Pilot

And even though they’re not technically “punk rock today“…

“‘Lone” by Jonesin’

“City of the Living Dead” by Down in the Dumps

Oh! AND… I think I like the black-and-white version better but since I can’t resist coloring anything and everything, here’s what the finished, physical drawing looks like (though the stickers will still be black-and-white).

"Punk Rock Today is Better Than It's Ever Been" (with color). 6/1/14. Ink. 4½x5¼".
“Punk Rock Today is Better Than It’s Ever Been” (with color). 6/1/14. Ink. 4½x5¼”.


“Success rates” for slit wrists and knives to the heart are surprisingly low. I didn’t want to go to a hospital…

Forty-eight hours before “No Accident” and the moment when I started to finally “get better,” I was in my room – researching suicide methods that didn’t require anything that couldn’t be found in my apartment at Tranquil Shores. I was going to kill myself because a girl was mad at me. A girl that I wasn’t even sure that I liked.

Earlier that afternoon, we did an exercise in group. We had to pull a couple items out of a basket and relate to them. I declined to say anything aloud, but when it was time for art therapy group, I started writing.

The fortune was absurd, the paper it was printed on was dirty and crumpled. Together, they were useless. This pencil is not useless. It has incredible potential. It is an instrument of a higher purpose. In the right hands. It is comforting. I like holding it in my hand. With paper, it can save me from almost anything. And it is forgiving. It has an eraser. If I make a mistake, it allows for correction. Or at least undoing. The mistakes I make with it are rarely entirely forgotten. I don’t know how to apply this to my life. Is it by chance that the trauma I addressed [in group] this morning, that I was supposed to see is not happening anymore (but which I claimed could and would (and sort of was) still taking place) – is it by chance that just hours later it pretty much is [happening again]? Or did I choose that memory because it had already begun? Yes, that’s it. It’s just more clear now. Because I realize I’m no longer willing to be honest which means I can’t get better. I can’t be helped. So there’s no reason for me to be here. Except that to hope that things will change once more. I no longer believe that I’m a drug addict. Sort of. I know I can’t use drugs (or that it’s not worth the risk in any case). But I’m not going to pick up. Fuck that. I’m over it. It’s not appealing anymore. But I’m miserable. Like I realized on my first weekend here, people are unhappy for countless reasons other than drugs. Me? I have no legitimate reason to be unhappy. It’s all in my head and it’s illogical. Is that recognition enough to get help in getting well without disclosing my irrational stressors? Celexa is an SSRI. Cymbalta is an SNRI. Which means that it does the same thing as Celexa, plus more. Adding Celexa to my prescription [regimen] adds little to nothing. And it will be another 3½ to 5½ weeks before we even know if it’s having any effect. I need something different and I need something faster. I am chemically imbalanced. I need chemical balance. Abilify might work. It’s too expensive. It’s less expensive than inpatient treatment. Maybe I’d be better off with Abilify and outpatient treatment. Here or elsewhere. At this point I’m not afraid to leave.

I don’t like art anymore. I don’t like treatment anymore. I don’t think I’m ready to get better anymore.

"Clarity." 12/10/12. Pencil. 12x18".
“Clarity.” 12/10/12. Pencil. 12×18″.

This piece is called “Clarity” because that’s how I actually felt in this moment. I thought I had nailed it. I was deluded enough to think that my primary issue was chemical, thoroughly confused as to whether or not I needed any kind of mental health therapy or substance abuse treatment, yet I was somehow lucid enough to know that those feelings (and my written rant) were totally insane. The title is “Clarity” because I thought it was hilarious. I wasn’t laughing, but I knew it was funny. Even then.

Sometimes, emotions are more powerful than facts.

Later that night, I made a half-hearted attempt to kill myself by asphyxiation. (Success rates are in the seventy to eighty percent range).


When I handed over the Traffic Street inventory to Kiss of Death, Glenn gave me a few new KoD releases. One was The Slow Death’s first LP. I listened to that record a lot while I was at Tranquil Shores. My name is on the thanks list even though I didn’t have any hand in its release. (Though I had been a big fan and supporter of The Slow Death and helped them out in other ways, so it wasn’t totally shocking). Still, I wasn’t expecting it and it was a really nice surprise. I had become so far removed from the world that I had lived and breathed for so long… Little things like that helped me feel connected in those days. It meant a lot to me. It seems appropriate that my first experience back in that world was the little tour with Rational Anthem this month, up to the fest that Jesse (of The Slow Death) organized. Here’s a song from that first LP that came to mind while I was writing this entry. And here’s a second song from their brand new record.